This article is for professional investors only, and not intended for retail investors.

The Covid-19 pandemic has shone a spotlight on the UK’s later life care system. Like many essential services, it has come under extreme pressure and is rising to this enormous challenge, but it is a worrying time for those who are in care or need to consider care services for themselves or their family. Financial advisers should be involved in every aspect of later life planning for their clients, including preparedness for professional care, so we spoke to one of the country’s leading care advisers to find out more about the pressures and complexities of the care system during this crisis.

Grace Consulting provide families with bespoke, independent advice on how to find the best possible care solutions for their needs and wishes.

Why is this pandemic putting such a strain on the care system?

As with all key services, the care system is learning as-we-go with this new virus. Care homes have had to close their doors to visitors, which can be distressing for residents and their families and shielding at home can lead to social isolation. Patients are being discharged from hospital more rapidly than usual and there are staff shortages, due to self-isolation and the stress and emotional strain being put on carers. According to LaingBuisson, as of 15 April 2020, an estimated 12% of care home front line staff were unavailable for work. Care facilities are having to rapidly adapt existing practices, causing disruption within homes and agencies. It is a very complex combination of conditions to navigate while prioritising the best interests of the individual.

At Grace Consulting, we are reassured that in most cases our clients with care in place are managing well. When Grace Care Advisers call to check how they are managing, they rarely express concern about the current situation, just gratitude to the dedication of their carers. For example, carers in care homes are making great efforts to take phones to people and to help with tablet video calls (not always with total success!). Some are sending regular photographs to families. Each kind intervention helps to keep families in contact and reduce anxiety.

Is Covid-19 changing the way families discuss care in later life?

These unprecedented times have brought to the fore the benefits of planning for later life. There has inevitably been an increase in the need for rapid decision making where people have been taken urgently to hospital due to sudden illness and where families have been unable to visit due to social distancing and restrictions on movement of people.

Additionally, we have witnessed a more acute focus on mortality across the population. This has brought about an openness to discuss, plan, and increase propensity to engage in conversations about later life care between family and loved ones. We hope that once the pandemic is over, and we can meet up again with our family and loved ones, we will continue to see the benefits of this. Financial advisers and independent care advisers can help facilitate these conversations and make sure that funds are in place to help realise these plans if the time comes.

Has the pandemic stimulated positive change?

Yes. This pandemic has shone a light on the importance of the care sector and its incredible work.  An increased awareness of the hugely valuable and onerous role carers play has garnered new respect for the sector. Services have ramped up in an extraordinarily short time period as the Government has been forced to fast track initiatives that have been on the agenda for some time. This has provided us with the tools we require to continue to meet our client’s needs. We have been able to offer advice based on new and fast-changing guidelines and maintain open lines of communications with care facilities so families can continue to monitor the care provision of loved ones. We have worked with various agencies and government bodies to accommodate demand for temporary care after hospital discharge as well as working with individuals to plan for longer-term solutions. All this has been enabled by a streamlined communication between health and social care bodies.

What can we learn from this pandemic about planning for later life care?

This experience should encourage people to start planning for care earlier than before, to put contingency plans in place and where necessary consider setting up powers of attorney, not just for finance, but also for health and welfare. This gives individuals the control over decisions that may be made for them in an emergency and loved ones the confidence that they are doing the right thing by the individual.

We have also seen the incredible support technology can give in times of emergency or isolation. We encourage every family to set up smart phones and tablets that can enable them to continue communicating with loved ones. Something we are no doubt all benefiting from at the moment.

The bespoke and independent guidance services of Grace Consulting are available as a complimentary facility to all investors in the Ingenious Estate Planning range of services. Speak to your local professional Ingenious contact or get in touch for more information.